Tracheal collapse in dogs is one of the cases where traditional medication is often helpless, if not outrightly harmful. I’ve seen it happen: you start with things like bronchodilators and cough suppressants, then graduate to sedatives, and end up with opioids to “calm” the dog.
A collapsed trachea is a degenerative condition that often occurs as a result of genetic defects in small dog breeds, such as Pomeranians, Yorkies, Poodles, and Chihuahuas. It tends to show up in middle age, and usually with the help of a trigger factor such as obesity, respiratory infection, or respiratory irritation.
Understanding Tracheal Collapse in Dogs
The trachea or windpipe is a tube of C-shaped rings running from the head to the chest, carrying air from the nose to the lungs. The C-rings are made of cartilage, which gives them strength to hold the windpipe open.
However, dogs with tracheal collapse have fewer supporting cells, which means less structural support. The condition is gradual, and total collapse may require surgery where stents are inserted to keep the airway open. Otherwise, a mild to moderate tracheal collapse is easily manageable with preventive natural remedies.
The main symptom of a collapsed trachea is a honking that sounds somewhat like a goose. This is caused by restricted airflow as your fur baby tries to get air past the restricted windpipe. Breathing may be labored, especially if there’s mucous obstructing the trachea.
If your dog can’t get enough oxygen into its bloodstream, you may also notice blue or purple gums. If left unchecked, the condition can cause fainting when there’s not enough oxygen reaching the brain.
Treating a Collapsed Trachea
Treatment of tracheal collapse usually focuses on managing the triggers and symptoms of the condition. The first part deals with factors that worsen the condition, such as obesity and throat infections.
The second part involves reducing or eliminating trigger factors. This is usually the most difficult part since there are many factors that can trigger a coughing episode. These include:
- Throat irritants, such as cigarette smoke or dust
- Excitement, fear, or anxiety
- Heat stress
- External pressure on the throat, such as wearing a dog collar or chain
When an episode begins, your fur baby gets distressed and anxious as they struggle to breathe. This panic and anxiety worsens the condition, which in turn makes it more difficult to breathe. The resulting cascade is what makes tracheal collapse progressively worse unless you manage it and slow it down.
Many homeopathic remedies are available to help support breathing, overcome stress and anxiety, relieve inflammation, and decrease phlegm.
How to Manage Tracheal Collapse Naturally
Lots of homeopathic remedies are ideal for managing a collapsed trachea. Herbal supplements, raw diet, Reiki, aromatherapy, chiropractic treatments, flower essences, and other treatment modalities may be used to manage tracheal collapse.
1. Change the Diet and Manage Weight
It’s surprising how many of the dogs I see with a collapsed trachea are overweight or obese. Not only is it a risk factor, but it makes the condition so much worse as your fur kid has to struggle to draw in a lot more air. So the first step should be weight management through diet.
We have extensive guides on how to raw feed your dog and the many benefits of doing so. Since dogs with tracheal collapse can’t perform strenuous exercise, the best way to help them reach a healthy weight is through diet.
A raw meat diet has many other advantages. For one, it’s easily digestible and helps overcome problems with IBS, acid reflux, and vomiting, which can trigger and worsen coughing episodes. The right foods can also help to strengthen the airway cartilage and muscle, particularly white fish, medicinal mushrooms, and eggs. Bone broth is also an ideal meal for cartilage strength.
As we’ll see shortly, the right diet also helps to fight inflammation, fight coughing, and reduce phlegm production, all of which go a long way to support breathing and slow down the condition.
2. Manage Inflammation
Conventional vets often prescribe corticosteroids to prevent or reduce inflammation and swelling in the trachea. Inflammation and irritation are natural consequences of tracheal collapse, and they can lead to more coughing and phlegm production.
You may already know that nature has given us many powerful remedies for inflammation so your fur baby doesn’t have to suffer the side effects of Western chemicals.
- Include anti-inflammatory and antioxidant foods in the diet, particularly those rich in Omega-3 fats. Examples include bone broth, white fatty fish, blueberries, turmeric, and ginger.
- Essential oils such as eucalyptus oil and hemp oil can be vaporized with steam to help soothe the trachea, reduce inflammation, fight phlegm, and manage coughing.
- Herbal treatments with Belladonna, Drosera, and Aconite are wonderful for inflammation. However, these require the help of an expert in naturopathic treatments or a canine herbalist.
Dogs with tracheal collapse also tend to develop an enlarged heart, which can worsen the condition. Antiinflammatory foods and treatments can help the cardiovascular system by reducing inflammation in the heart lining.
3. Use Natural Cough Remedies
Coughing, gagging, and labored breathing distress your fur baby, not to mention further irritating the trachea. Managing coughing is crucial, but conventional cough suppressants and bronchodilators are not ideal for our natural-only fur babies. Instead, we have lots of natural options that can help prevent and suppress coughing.
Natural honey is one of the most powerful cough suppressants for humans and dogs alike. A small dab given with food or when coughing occurs helps to soothe the throat. Manuka honey is particularly effective, sometimes even more effective than conventional drugs.
For best results, give your dog a little Manuka honey in a little warm water in their bowl. You can also add some lemon juice or MCT oil.
Other natural cough remedies include marshmallow root, CBD oil, plantain, Drosera, and various essential oils such as chamomile, fennel, frankincense, peppermint, lavender, and citrus oils.
4. Strengthen Cartilage
I’ve already mentioned that diet can help strengthen the trachea and help keep the airway open. Other supplements that can help with this include chondroitin, hyaluronic acid, glucosamine, fish oil, yucca, comfrey, and Pena canaliculus. Give your fur kid daily supplements as recommended by a canine herbalist or expert naturopath.
5. Avoid Respiratory Irritants
When a buddy is suffering from tracheal collapse, it should be second nature to keep them away from smoke, dust, pollen, incense and all sources of throat irritants. However, some dogs are sensitive to strong perfumes, dry air, and particulates that you would otherwise consider normal.
Keep your dog indoors and use high-quality HEPA filters to keep the air clean. Where necessary, use humidifiers/vaporizers to help keep the air moist. Don’t smoke around your dog, and avoid any scented candles, artificial scent diffusers, and sprays.
When your dog is up for a walk, choose routes and parks that are free of dust, pollen, smoke, and any other irritants that could trigger coughing.
6. Manage Stress and Anxiety
Stress, anxiety, fear, and panic are detrimental to a dog with a collapsed trachea. Luckily, there are numerous homeopathic treatments you can use to help keep your fur baby calm and comfortable.
The list of remedies is vast. There’s a wide range of herbal treatments, aromatherapy, flower essences, massage, and even pheromone treatments you can use to manage stress. Energy modalities like Reiki as well as homeopathic treatments like acupuncture and acupressure all help manage stress and anxiety.
If you’re not sure what to do, consult Rhonda Jewel or any other experienced holistic health coach for guidance.
7. Switch to a Dog Harness
It’s obvious that you shouldn’t use any kind of neck restraint on a dog with a collapsing trachea. Any external pressure or strain will only make the problem worse. Instead, use a dog harness and do not apply pressure to the throat area for any reason.
Managing Collapsed Trachea the Natural Way
It’s often a heartbreaking moment for any paw-rent to see their fur baby struggling with the symptoms of a collapsed trachea. Seeing them gagging, wheezing, and honking is enough for anyone to want to try any treatment available to relieve the suffering.
A trip to the vet will result in numerous prescriptions for what is mostly an untreatable condition. It starts small with cough suppressants and bronchodilators, before cascading to heavyweights like NSAIDs, steroids, and opiates. Such a prescription diet can lead to much more serious problems down the road, including kidney failure, liver failure, heart conditions, and many others.
We’ve explored the many natural and homeopathic treatments you can use to manage tracheal collapse rather than pump your fur baby full of toxic chemicals.
Below are a few product links that Lisa and I have used on our own dogs with trachea and coughing issues that can possibly help with lung, heart and coughing issues as well: